(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "The Gay Genius"

POETS, COURTESANS, AND MONKS              139

the words to a known melody. Instead of lines of a uniform number
of syllables of Tang "regulated verse", there was a rich variety of
Long and short lines, strictly conforming to the requirements of the
song.

In the time of Su Tungpo this new form of poetry was at the height
of its popularity. Through Su Tungpo, Chin Kuan, Huang Tingchien
and others of his generation, like Yen Chitao and Chou Pangyen, it
became the poetry of the dynasty. Su Tungpo, discovered it in Hang-
chow, fell it love with it, and from his second year in Hangchow
began to write a great number of verses in the metres of the songs. But
the tse had been strictly a form for sentimental love verse. Such poems
invariably sang of "fragrant perspiration"/ "gauze curtains", "dis-
ordered hair", the "spring night", "warm jade", "sloping shoulders", a
-"willowy waist", "tapering fingers", etc. When and where such senti-
mental poetry bordered on the licentious depended entirely on the
poet's handling of the material. The difference between passion and
love is as difficult to establish in poetry as in real life. Invariably also,
like modern cabaret artists, the poets preferred to sing of heartbreak
and the pangs of love and the longing of the unrequited lover. They
sang of a woman secluded in her chamber, sadly longing for the absent
one, fondling her belt silently, or keeping lone company with the
candlelight. In fact, the whole feminine appeal was built around
j^oman's helplessness, her sallow cheeks, her silent tears, her ennui,
insomnia, "broken intestines", lost appetite, general lassitude, and every
form of physical and mental misery, which, like poverty, sounds poetic.
It would seem the word suyung, "lassitude", was almost voluptuous.
Su Tungpo not only became one of the acknowledged few great tse
masters of this dynasty; it was to his credit that he freed it, in his own
practise at least, from sentimental drivel.

There is no record that Su Tungpo became enamoured of any of the
courtesans. He enjoyed the gay parties and "fooled around" with
^omen enough to be a "good fellow", not enough to take a mistress.
Two of the women were especially close to the poet. Chintsao, a gifted
courtesan, was persuaded by him to free herself and become a nun.
Chaoyun, who became later his concubine, was then a girl of twelve.
/Ve shall come to her later.

Today there is a Sung rubbing of a stone inscription in the hand-
writing of Su Tungpo which records a poem written by a courtesan.
It is called "The Dark Clouds Script" from the first words of a poem.
It tells the story that once a state-owned courtesan, Chou Shao, was
present at a dinner. She used to hold tea contests with the great tea
connoisseur and calligraphist Tsai Shiang, and won them. When Su
Sung passed through the town, the chief magistrate Chen Shiang gave
him a party with Chou Shao present. During the party Miss